Friday, January 6, 2012

Want a Super Religious Candiate?

Carolers in Excelsior, Minnesota on November 25, 2011.

I’d like to find out, once-and-for-all, just how successful a super-religious evangelical candidate would be at running for President. I have some suspicions.
by Charlie Leck

Mind you, only 5.4 percent of Iowa’s eligible voters caucused last Tuesday evening. So, we mustn’t get carried away by the decisions they made on Republican candidates.

I keep thinking about the strong influence that religion had in the caucus results (or, at least, that we were told it had).

America is not unlike other western nations. Religion holds very little sway in most European nations. Someone who came charging into European politics with proclamations about Jesus and salvation would have a very hard time winning anything and would repel most voters.

In America, such a person will win over the very fundamental, evangelical religious crowd. The question, of course, is how big that crowd is. I have a feeling that a person of such convictions – say, like Congresswoman Bachmann – would actually be negatively affected in a general election.

No presidential candidate is going to want to give away the religious-right-wing, but I’m not so sure that such a candidate wouldn’t lose as many people out of the center and moderate wings as he would gain among evangelicals.

I don’t believe America is any longer a particularly religious nation. Two researchers, sociologists of religion, Kirk Hadaway and Penny Marler found that only 20.4 percent of the population attends church regularly. Their article, Did You Really Go To Church This Week, appeared in the distinguished Christian Century periodical.

And remember, not all of that 20.4 percent who do attend church would consider themselves fundamentalists or evangelical. For instance, my church proudly proclaims it is liberal and progressive. The huge United Church of Christ runs regular ads promoting its sympathies with gays and a good number of its clergy are gay or lesbian. Just take a quick look at the home page of its web site and you’ll see that it’s far different than Bachmann’s approach to religion. There are many other denominations that also have a liberal or progressive streak. Most of America’s major denominations (Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans) would contend to be somewhere in the middle ground.

Frankly, I’m sitting back hoping the Republican Party will endorse a super-religious, come-to-Jesus type candidate so we can see just how much influence such a person would really have and how many people would get turned-off by such an approach. I think anyone of a strong religious character could easily and sharply divide the nation.

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